WASHINGTON -- Before evolution produced creatures of our perfection, there was a 3-ton dinosaur, the stegosaurus, so neurologically sluggish that when its tail was injured, significant time elapsed before news of the trauma meandered up its long spine to its walnut-size brain. This primitive beast, not the dignified elephant, should be the symbol of House Republicans.
Yes, one should not taint all of them because of the behavior of most of them. Why, perhaps half a dozen of the 231 Republican representatives authored none of the transportation bill's 6,371 earmarks -- pork projects. And now among House Republicans there are Darwinian stirrings, prompted by concerns about survival.
In Washington, such concerns often are confused with and substitute for moral epiphanies. Tom DeLay will not return as leader of House Republicans, whose new fastidiousness is not yet so severe that they are impatient with Ohio Rep. Bob Ney's continuing chairmanship of the Committee on House Administration, in spite of services he rendered to Jack Abramoff. Ney has explained, by way of extenuation -- yes, extenuation -- that he did not know what he was doing.
Anyway, catalyzed by DeLay's decision to recede, House Republicans, perhaps emboldened by the examples of Afghanistan and Iraq, are going to risk elections. When they elect their leaders, they should consider the following:
The national pastime is no longer baseball, it is rent-seeking -- bending public power for private advantage. There are two reasons why rent-seeking has become so lurid, but those reasons for today's dystopian politics are reasons why most suggested cures seem utopian.
The first reason is big government -- the regulatory state. This year Washington will disperse $2.6 trillion, which is a small portion of Washington's economic consequences, considering the costs and benefits distributed by incessant fiddling with the tax code, and by government's regulatory fidgets.
Second, House Republicans, after 40 years in the minority, have, since 1994, wallowed in the pleasures of power. They have practiced DeLayism, or ``K Street conservatism.'' This involves exuberantly serving rent-seekers, who hire K Street lobbyists as helpers. For House Republicans the aim of the game is to build political support. But Republicans shed their conservatism in the process of securing their seats in the service, they say, of conservatism.